“A Rising Tide” is a likable drama that finds a clan of restaurateurs in hot water after Hurricane Sandy badly damages their business. While there’s a formulaic feel to some of it, the formula does work in this modest but engaging feature from writer-director Ben Hickernell (“Lebanon, Pa.”), aided by the conviction that the solid cast brings to the material. Result is a good bet for fests on the hunt for upbeat, inspirational fare, with theatrical prospects likely to skew regional. Home-format sales should be somewhat broader.
Sam (Hunter Parrish, “Weeds”) is rather reluctantly employed at his family’s longtime Atlantic City eatery, where his innovative ideas clash with the traditionalist leanings of his father, Alek (Victor Slezak), who insists they stick with the East Coast “comfort food” that sells. Still, Sam has little choice in the matter, having tried and failed to sustain his own nouveau-cuisine joint in hyper-expensive Manhattan. Blase about weather warnings that ultimately always seem exaggerated, he pays little heed to the reports that “Frankenstorm” Sandy is a serious threat. Ergo, he and various friends are busy partying when the waters rise to breach the sandbags, flooding the restaurant.
Alek blames his son’s carelessness for the extent of the damage, and while the business does reopen, it eventually becomes clear that the financial toll of the repairs has been catastrophic. Meanwhile, Sam finds a potentially powerful ally in wealthy, widowed venture capitalist Tom (Tim Daly), and a nemesis in sleazily ambitious loan officer Roger (Jonathan Togo), whose unhappy wife, Sarah (Ashley Hinshaw), he befriends.
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The latter romantic development is “A Rising Tide’s” most routine aspect, and one that increasingly takes centerstage. More compelling are Sam’s struggles to save the family business, not to mention the foodie-porn element of the delicious-looking dishes on which d.p. Jimmy Lee Phelan lavishes attention. (Peter Almonte is the credited food stylist.) Tech and design contributions are solid.